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Ayres's Hawk-eagle
Aquila ayresii

Status: Data Deficient

Population Trend: Unknown.

Other Names: Ayres's Eagle, Ayre's Hawk Eagle, Ayres's Hawk Eagle, Hieraaetus dubius.

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Aquila ayresii
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Distribution: Afrotropical. SIERRA LEONE east to ETHIOPIA and SOMALIA, south to northern NAMIBIA, northern BOTSWANA and northeastern SOUTH AFRICA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Formerly called Hieraaetus dubius (Brown and Amadon 1968, Stresemann and Amadon 1979), but that name apparently refers to H. pennatus (Brooke and Vernon 1981, Dowsett and Dowsett-Lemaire 1993). The study by Helbig et al. (2005), using DNA sequences from one mitochondrial and two nuclear genes, indicated that the smaller Hieraaetus species, including H. ayresii, H. morphnoides, and H. pennatus, form a monophyletic groups with H. (Aquila) wahlbergi as their sister. The majority of raptor systematists (e.g., Wink and Sauer-Gürth 2004, Gjershaug 2006) and several national committees on classification and nomenclature (e.g., those in the United Kingdom and Germany) now favor merging the species formerly assigned to Hieraaetus into Aquila, and they are followed here.

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant (Bildstein 2006). Intra-African migrant with significant post-breeding dispersal to the south, north, and west of its breeding range in south-central Africa. Northern populations are possibly more sedentary (Kemp and Kemp 1998), although Gatter (1997) thought there might be some movements in Liberia. In Zimbabwe, these eagles tend to move to urban areas outside of the breeding season (Lendrum 1982, Hartley 1982, Steyn 1982). more....

Habitat and Habits: Prefers well wooded savanna areas, riparian forest, and forest patches and may also enter cities and exotic plantations after breeding (Irwin 1981). Particularly numerous in Brachystegia (miombo) woodlands of south-central Africa and around the great lakes of East Africa (Snow 1978). Absent from primary rainforest and arid, treeless areas. Requires large trees for nesting and roosting, and Steyn (1982) emphasized its preference for hilly country and climax woodland. According to Dowsett et al. (2008), this eagle occurs overall in denser vegetation than the congeneric African Hawk-eagle. Usually found singly. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds mainly on small and medium-sized birds, especially dovers, which are captured in a fast stoop. It also takes tree-dwelling rodents from branches in the canopy or mid-strata of forests (Clancey 1985). It perches within the tree canopy and makes fast dashes after prey, including tail pursuits. more....

Breeding: Builds a small stick nest lined with twigs with attached green leaves and placed in a high fork of a tall tree. Also occasionally uses the old nest of another large raptor species. Breeding has been recorded between April-September in Zimbabwe (Irwin 1981). Clutch size is 1 egg in equatorial areas and 2 eggs in southern Africa. Eggs are dull white with spots and smudges of brown of various shades and slate gray (Clancey 1985). more....

Conservation: Widespread throughout forests and woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa, but rare and poorly known throughout its range (Simmons 2005). It is unobtrusive and probably under-recorded. This species has suffered from habitat loss and degradation of woodlands, especially miombo (Brachystegia) forest (Jenkins 1997), and it is regularly shot for killing homing pigeons and other domestic birds (Hartley and Mundy 2003, Jenkins op cit.). It is categorized globally as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International, with a note that the population is "suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats." However, more focused surveys may reveal that this species is Near Threatened globally, as is the case presently in southern Africa (Simmons 2005). more....

Population Estimates: Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) placed the total population (defined as the number of adults and immatures at the start of the breeding season) in the range of 1,000 to 10,000 birds, but they also commented that the total population seems unlikely to exceed thousands. BirdLife International (2009) estimated that there are from 1,000 to 10,000 adults, but emphasized that the supporting data are poor. Brown et al. (1982) estimated the population in southern Africa at less than 1,000 birds. more....

Important References: 
Brown, L.H., E.K. Urban, and K. Newman. 1982. The birds of Africa. Vol. 1.
  Academic Press, London.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Jenkins, A.R. 1997. Ayres's Eagle. P. 187 in J.A. Harrison et al. (eds.),
  The atlas of South African birds. Volume 1: Non-passerines. BirdLife South
  Africa and Avian Demography Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. Ayres's Hawk-eagle. P. 200 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott,
  and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Simmons, R.E. 2005. Ayres's Hawk-Eagle Aquila ayresii. Pp. 534-535 in
  P.A.R. Hockey, W.R.J. Dean, and P.G. Ryan (eds.), Roberts Birds of Southern
  Africa. 7th ed. Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town,
  South Africa.
Steyn, P. 1982. Birds of prey of southern Africa: their identification and
  life histories. David Phillip, Cape Town, South Africa.
Tarboton, W.R., and D.G. Allan. 1984. The status and conservation of birds
  of prey in the Transvaal. Transvaal Museum Monograph no. 3. Transvaal
  Museum, Pretoria, South Africa.

Sites of Interest:
Ayres's Hawk-eagle photos.

Deacon, Neil
Middleton, Angus
Steyn, Peter

Last modified: 10/13/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Ayres's Hawk-eagle Aquila ayresii. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 25 Sep. 2020

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